Argon Cluster Ion Source Evaluation on Lipid Standards and Rat Brain Tissue Samples

Argon cluster ion sources for sputtering and secondary ion mass spectrometry use projectiles consisting of several hundreds of atoms, accelerated to 10–20 keV, and deposit their kinetic energy within the top few nanometers of the surface. For organic materials, the sputtering yield is high removing material to similar depth. Consequently, the exposed new surface is relatively damage free. It has thus been demonstrated on model samples that it is now really possible to perform dual beam depth profiling experiments in organic materials with this new kind of ion source. Here, this possibility has been tested directly on tissue samples, 14 μm thick rat brain sections, allowing primary ion doses much larger than the so-called static secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS) limit and demonstrating the possibility to enhance the sensitivity of time-of-flight (TOF)-SIMS biological imaging. However, the depth analyses have also shown some variations of the chemical composition as a function of depth, particularly for cholesterol, as well as some possible matrix effects due to the presence or absence of this compound.